The Interpretation of "A Poison Tree" – A Poem written by William Blake

The Background
"A Poison Tree" is an interesting poem composed by William Blake in 1794. The poem is one of the writer’s numerous poems compiled in a collection known as "Song of Experience". It’s indeed one of the thought-provoking write-ups by the author although it’s not all that known. Here you will find a comprehensive interpretation of ‘A Poison Tree”.

The Structure
The poem is written in 4 stanzas with each of them having one quatrain. There’s a noticeable simple rhyme scheme in the poem. The writer also used various literary techniques in conveying his message.

The Interpretation
Actually, William Blake wrote "A Poison Tree" to protest a wrong policy practiced in the Anglican Church. He was an English Dissenter. In the Anglican Church, Dissenters refer to individuals who broke away from the church as a result of what they consider wrong practices or doctrines of the church. Blake actually wrote the entire collection of his poems captioned "Songs of Experience" to protest the church’s policy of suppressing sinful emotions in the members. Such emotions include frustration and anger. The Poem "A Poison Tree" is seen as a typical example of the wrong policy. Through the poem, Blake believes that suppressing anger is never right. It will only lead to more display of anger. In any case, the actions of the Dissenters like Blake and others were not tolerated by the English church. Hence, they were persecuted instead.

In the poem, Blake paints a picture of a man who becomes angry with his enemy. The man decides to hold the anger within him and as a result the hatred grew inside of him. The anger kept growing and led to frustration. The man accommodated the anger in his mind and it grew to an apple tree. Later on the apple tree turned into a poisoned tree. This is exactly where the meaning of the poem’s title was drawn. The poison tree grew out of wickedness nursed in the mind of the individual. His fear and grief became poisoned water to the tree. The poison tree kept growing until poisoned apple fruits began showing on it. One day, the enemy of the man was lured by the beauty of the apple fruit. He stole into the garden, ate the apple fruit and then died. The next morning, the man in the poem was happy to see his enemy dead under the tree. He felt no remorse for this. Rather, his anger and wickedness grew the more.
From the above, the principal theme of the poem is not actually anger but how the stifling of anger can lead to wickedness. It simply leads to the multiplication of anger. The poet portrays that burying anger will cause more harm. It will only lead to wickedness. Instead of suppressing anger, one should rather acknowledge and expose it. One should also deal with anger right away instead of suppressing it.